Legion, Abbott, Monstress & More in Required Reading: Comics for 1/22/2018

Comics Lists Required Reading
Legion, Abbott, Monstress & More in Required Reading: Comics for 1/22/2018

Sometimes our weekly recommendations fall neatly under one umbrella, and sometimes their styles and intended audiences range wide and free. This Wednesday is a celebration of the latter, with curated indie comics mingling with movie-ready superhero trade collections, period-piece supernatural detective tales rubbing elbows with intergalactic royal drama and fundraiser anthologies sharing self space with a Teen Titans spin-off title. Enjoy the full spectrum of comic storytelling, folks—it’s Required Reading time.

STL067767.jpegAbbott #1
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Sami Kivelä
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Until recently, Saladin Ahmed was best known for his poetry, award-winning speculative fiction work and prolific Twitter feed, but 2017 delivered him a new kind of critical and popular success. Ahmed’s work with Christian Ward on Marvel’s Black Bolt was both serious and surprising, which, given the subject matter he had to work with, wasn’t a guarantee. With the exception of Warren Ellis’s oft-delayed Karnak, it’s been a struggle to make readers take the Inhumans seriously, but Ahmed brought unexpected depth and emotion to Blackagar Boltagon. That skill with characterization and storytelling is the main draw to Abbott, a supernatural crime comic from BOOM! Studios that pairs Ahmed with Sami Kivelä. The story is set in 1970s Detroit and stars a female journalist of color who digs into anti-Black—and potentially magical—crimes long ignored by the police. Kivelä’s work on Black Mask’s Beautiful Canvas shows that he’s got a good handle on action, and it will be exciting to see what Ahmed can do when he’s not restricted by someone else’s rules, free instead to delve into politics and the social divides that people carve out for themselves. Caitlin Rosberg

620034._SX1280_QL80_TTD_.jpgAquaman Vol. 4: Underworld
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: Stjepan Sejic
Publisher: DC Comics
Stjepan Sejic is tied with Jason Momoa for the best thing to happen to Aquaman in the last half-decade. Although the character all-too-often still suffers under the overly serious approach Geoff Johns pioneered, Sejic is a perfect fit for Aquaman and Mera’s underwater high-court drama, rendering sea beasts, flowing hair, clashing tridents and shining chainmail with equal flair. Best known for his contributions to the Top Cow universe and his erotic Sunstone saga, Sejic has the potential to be one of DC’s most exciting contemporary artists. Writer Dan Abnett doesn’t quite rise to the occasion in this volume, staying mired in preceding events and Atlantean political struggles, but the pair find their groove as the issues progress. When James Wan’s feature film hits theaters later this year, Underworld will stand out as one of the prettiest Aquaman books to hand to new fans. Steve Foxe

STL070073.jpegDissonance #1
Writers: Singgih Nugroho & Ryan Cady
Artist: Sami Basri
Publisher: Top Cow/ Image Comics
Top Cow’s Glitch partnership expands again this week, into a world in which body-less alien “Fantasmen” bond with humans in exchange for ideas and innovation, a process known as “Dissonance.” Co-writers Singgih Nugroho and Ryan Cady lay the worldbuilding on thick this debut issue, introducing shadow cabinets full of internal strife, ominous prophecies, sociopathic siblings and even an alien-hybrid homage to Alexander McQueen, but artist Sami Basri delivers it all gorgeously. As with previous entries God Complex and Bonehead, the chief appeal of Dissonance is aesthetic. These are comics based on visual concepts and Top Cow has done a splendid job recruiting talented, largely underrated talent to flesh out the worlds around Glitch’s design work. Note that each is also self-contained, making Dissonance a worthwhile read for sci-fi fans searching for a visually pleasing new universe to explore. Steve Foxe

STL068982.jpegInhumans: Judgment Day #1
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Mike Del Mundo
Publisher: Marvel Comics
It’s a shame that the most recent iteration of the Inhumans wasn’t Marvel’s opening volley in making the concept “happen”: Al Ewing has the best grip yet on what makes the royal family interesting, and sending them into space and away from constant conflict with the much more popular X-Men did wonders for their likability. Judging by solicits and the end of Inhumans-focused title Secret Warriors, Marvel’s push to make the Inhumans a thing seems to be winding down, but Ewing and Judgment Day artist Mike Del Mundo are at least sending the cast out with fanfare. Del Mundo is one of Marvel’s most exciting and versatile artists, employing his digital painting in chameleonic modes to suit each project. His rendition of Medusa and Black Bolt is one of the most impressive since Frazer Irving and Jae Lee put their stamp on the franchise. Ewing’s plot seems designed to reset the best of the Inhumans status quo but only after putting its heroes through the ringer—often a difficult balance to strike in mainstream superhero comics. While Marvel’s Inhumans found their best stewards a little too late, we’ll take what we can get at this point. Steve Foxe

STL069098.jpegLegion #1
Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Wilfredo Torres
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Now that Marvel’s silent war with Fox Studios over mutant movie rights seems to have calmed down (especially with the pending acquisition by Disney of said rights) it’s no surprise that David Haller is getting a spotlight series with a premise reminiscent of the surprise critical hit Legion TV show. Simon Spurrier and a small band of talented artists wove the last Haller outing in the pages of X-Men: Legacy, and Peter Milligan makes for a smart follow-up: although his most recent works have been hit or miss, Milligan wrote Shade, the Changing Man, a fundamental treatise on shifting identities, and X-Statix, the X-Force reimagining that elevated the mutant metaphor to new millennial heights. Joining Milligan is Wilfredo Torres, whose slick superhero style should get a workout rendering nightmare brain battles and whatever other strangeness Milligan can concoct for Xavier’s god-level son to confront. Steve Foxe

STL068822.jpegMine! A Celebration of Freedom and Liberty for All Benefiting Planned Parenthood
Writers/Artists: Various
Publisher: ComicMix
After the Women’s Marches over the weekend, it’s the perfect time for a comic anthology that benefits one of the most politicized and targeted health organizations to hit shelves. Mine! might have the longest subtitle ever given to a comic, but for such a good cause it can be forgiven. Organized by comics news and reviews site ComicMix, the anthology brings together dozens of creators from all over the world, and the profits go to Planned Parenthood. ComicMix ran a successful Kickstarter to fund printing the book, and the past few weeks have seen signings in local comic shops as the books begin to ship. The crowdfunding efforts didn’t reach the same heights as previous crowd-sourced titles like Womanthology did, and that could be because aside from the beneficiary, there’s nothing that binds the stories or creators together. There are a lot of women involved in the project, but many of the creators are men, and subject matter varies from sci-fi futures to educational and biographical comics. The book is bound to have some great comics in it, with names like Gail Simone, Blue Deliquanti, Megan Rose Gedris, Becky Cloonan and Jill Thompson contributing, but it likely won’t be a cohesive read. Regardless, the cause is a worthy one and Mine! is worth picking up if for no other reason than to discover great new creators and send a few bucks toward PP. Caitlin Rosberg

STL070159.jpegMonstress #13
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Sana Takeda
Publisher: Image Comics
Even as the number of sci-fi titles climbs, it can be a struggle to find high fantasy monthly comics. There are ample urban fantasy books, and a significant number of superhero offerings integrate some element of traditional fantasy plots, but outside of all-ages books, there aren’t too many offerings with magic and monsters in the vein of Tolkein or George R.R. Martin. With her prose work and her comic writing credits, Marjorie Liu may have been the perfect person to bring high fantasy back to comics, and her partnership with artist Sana Takeda has made Monstress an award-winning fan-favorite—and one of the best-selling trade collections in the direct market last year. Monstress has been described as Final Fantasy in comic form, an expansive long-form story with intense worldbuilding. The sheer scope of the story is so massive that it can be difficult to jump into; Monstress lends itself to binge reading. Issue #13 starts a new arc, and with the first 12 issues available in trades, it’s the perfect point for new readers to jump in. Takeda’s art is some of the most detailed and textured that you can find in current titles, and Liu’s imagination appears to have no bounds. Monstress is exactly the kind of book that fans of writers like N.K. Jemisin and Kate Elliott will enjoy, and the perfect gateway comic for prose fantasy readers. Caitlin Rosberg

19826211250281.jpgOnly the End of the World Again
Writers: P. Craig Russell & Neil Gaiman
Artist: Troy Nixey
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
First published almost 20 years ago, a new hardcover edition of Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell’s Lovecraftian werewolf comic is back as part of Dark Horse’s Neil Gaiman Library. Based on a short story by Gaiman and adapted by Russell, the book features art by Dark Horse favorite Troy Nixey and colors by Matt Hollingsworth. The creative minds behind Only the End of the World Again are a dream team for this kind of story; Russell has adapted a slew of Gaiman’s works to comics including American Gods: Shadows, Nixey has worked with Mike Mignola on all sorts of existential terrors and Hollingsworth colors Wytches, one of the best horror comics of the last decade. The new hardcover will include the original comics, plus a brand-new cover and bonus material that includes a behind-the-scenes look at how the comic got made. Fans of Gaiman who may have missed this book should definitely grab it, as should anyone who likes Dark Horse’s wide spectrum of horror and supernatural comics. Caitlin Rosberg

STL069375.jpegRaven: Daughter of Darkness #1
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artist: Pop Mhan
Publisher: DC Comics
It’s fitting that Marv Wolfman’s newest DC title stars one of the most beloved characters he helped introduce to DC canon. Most of the characters featured in Wolfman’s seminal run on The New Teen Titans have had their own solo title in the last few years, and it’s high time that Raven joined that list. Though she’s been part of the Teen Titans line-up in recent times, Raven: Daughter of Darkness is the first real focus feature for the empath in the Rebirth era. Artist Pop Mahn joins Wolfman for the miniseries to feature not only Raven’s supernatural adventures, but also her personal life. Though her relationship with her demon father has been explored in depth more than once, this time around it’s her mother that gets the focus, which is a refreshing change. Mahn’s style is fairly traditional and close to DC’s house style, which is disappointing. It would have been wonderful to see someone like Ming Doyle, Annie Wu or Aud Koch tackle Raven’s story with art that’s more experimental and in line with the character’s own sharp, chaotic aesthetic. Hopefully the miniseries foretells more great things to come for Raven, especially with her co-creator attached to the project. Caitlin Rosberg

Screen Shot 2018-01-22 at 4.41.49 PM.pngShortBox #7
Writers/Artists: Various
Publisher: Comics & Cola (Zainab Akhtar)
Eisner-nominated writer Zainab Akhtar, also known as Comics & Cola, has been advocating for and identifying incredible talents in independent and non-American comics communities for years now, and since 2016 has been making their work even more accessible to readers that might be unfamiliar with anything outside of capes and cowls. Every quarter, Akhtar sells a curated collection of print comics called ShortBox, with comics by talented creators both famous and on the cusp. Each collection includes a handful of titles, several of them exclusive to ShortBox. ShortBox #7 is available as of today and includes Wizard and Soft Pig by Rosie Brand, Navel Gazing by Gyimah Gariba, Cat and Bag by Viv Schwarz, Paradise by Matthew Petit and, perhaps most excitingly, Beneath the Dead Oak Tree by Emily Carroll. Carroll is a master of atmospheric horror, including webcomics like His Face All Red and The Hole the Fox Did Make, as well as her Eisner- and Ignatz-Award-winning book Through The Woods. This Shortbox includes almost 300 pages of comics as well as a print; sales are only open for this week and the boxes ship in March. Akhtar has an incredible eye for both skill and comics, and buying Shortbox is liking having a guided tour into the best comics available off the beaten path. Caitlin Rosberg

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